Tipperary South tops child neglect league, HSE figures show

A new HSE review of its child and family services shows the Tipperary South area had the highest level of child neglect in the country although Dublin South East had the highest percentage of sexual abuse.

However, more child protection reports are lodged per child in Longford/Westmeath than any other part of the country.

The review confirms that just a fraction of child protection reports point to abuse taking place, while parental inability to cope with pressure results in hundreds of admissions of children into care.

Last week the Irish Examiner revealed that in 2010 HSE social work teams received 16,452 child welfare reports and 12,825 child protection reports, with neglect the largest single category for referral.

Now the Review of Adequacy for HSE Children and Family Services 2010, published yesterday, shows that of the 12,825 child protection reports, abuse was confirmed in just 1,556 cases following notification to child protection notification management.

The HSE said its new standardised business process would tackle the disparity by focussing on current risks and needs. It also said there had been improvements in the number of initial assessments carried out, following figures in the Review of Adequacy for HSE Children and Family Services for 2009 — also published yesterday — which showed there were 26,888 reports with only 15,611 (58%) receiving an initial assessment.

The lack of standardised assessment was highlighted by some figures in the report: For example, in 2010, there were 1,897 welfare reports made in Galway, by far the highest in the country for any one area. The same area had just 184 protection reports.

By contrast, Longford /Westmeath had 1,188 protection reports and 711 welfare reports.

The report, under the headline “primary reason for welfare concern following initial assessment”, shows that a family member abusing drugs or alcohol was a major factor. Other significant issues were a child displaying emotional/behavioural problems, parent separation/absence, and financial difficulty.

Dublin South East, at 28%, had the highest percentage of sexual abuse, Galway the highest percentage of welfare referrals at 91%, Dublin West the highest percentage of physical abuse referrals at 19.3%, and North Cork the highest percentage of emotional abuse cases at 26.8%.

The highest percentage of child neglect referrals was Tipperary South at 30.3%, just ahead of Dublin West.

However, in confirmed cases of abuse, Dublin/Mid-Leinster had the highest number of cases of physical and sexual abuse and child neglect, followed by Dublin North East. HSE South had the highest number of confirmed cases of emotional abuse.

Of the almost 6,000 children in care at the end of 2010, 442 came from the North Lee area of Cork City — the highest figure for any one area in the country.

The review showed that 31 children had been in residential care for more than five years — half the 2006 figure. Primary reason for admission into the care system were split into three categories: Abuse, child problems, and family problems.

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